In Guardia Parade
December 2018: 30
Fort St Elmo, Valletta
The historical reenactment of a full-scale 16th century military parade and drills in faithful costumes from the time of the Knights of Saint John in the beautiful Malta. An entertaining and educational experience for the whole family, adults and children as well, an exciting time-travel back to the days of faith, glory, bravery and sacrifice, meeting the Maltese heroic defenders who became legend at the Great Siege of Malta AD 1565…
Geographical, cultural and historical context
The Maltese archipelago is one of the smallest states in the world, consisting of 3 largest islands, Malta, Gozo and Comino, and 18 uninhabited minor islands, all located in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea, about 80 km from the Italian island of Sicily, in Europe, 280 km from Tunisia and 330 km from Libya, in Africa. Malta is a beloved and renowned touristic destination thanks to the wonderful seascape, the mild climate, the hospitality of the Maltese people themselves. Besides, the outstanding historical and artistic millenary heritage includes also three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the whole capital city of Valletta, the Hypogeum in Paola (from a Greek word meaning "underground", a rock-cut subterranean complex dating to the 4th millennium BC), and the famous Megalithic Temples of Malta, which are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world.
Malta boasts a quite rich history and has been inhabited since the Neolithic Age. The first settlers were mainly Stone Age hunters or farmers coming from Sicily, who gave birth to a unique, temple-building civilisation. Thanks to its geographical location and natural harbours Malta has always played a key role as a strategic naval base in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea throughout history, attracting several civilizations over centuries, including Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans and Spaniards. In the Middle Ages Malta became an important base for the Christian pilgrims and armies heading for the Holy Land.
In 1530 Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1500-1558) gave Malta in perpetual lease to the Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, or Knights Hospitaller, a military religious order and brotherhood of brave and resolute warrior monks, who had lost their former base of operations, Rhodes island, to the Ottoman Turks in 1522. The Knights of St John, soon known also as the Knights of Malta, ruled until General Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821, French statesman and military leader, Emperor of France from 1804 to 1814, and in 1815) captured Malta on his way to Egypt during the French Revolutionary Wars in 1798.
From 1814 to 1964 Malta was a dominion of the British Empire. King George VI (1895-1952) of the United Kingdom awarded the George Cross, one of the highest military honours in the United Kingdom second only to the Victoria Cross, to Malta in 1942 for the country's bravery during World War II. This episode is commemorated every year in April. To find out more please visit our dedicated page: "The Award of the George Cross to Malta".
The very event for which Malta went down to history is undoubtedly the heroic resistance during the Great Siege of Malta in AD 1565, regarded as one of the greatest sieges of all time. Suleiman the Magnificent (1494-1566), Sultan of the Ottoman Turk Empire, launched a giant invasion with a fleet of about 200 ships and a landing force of about 50.000 warriors. Although vastly outnumbered the Knights of Saint John, led by their Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Vallette (1495-1568), and counting only on 6,000 defenders, managed to withstand a very hard siege of several months. The Maltese defenders succumbed at Fort St Elmo, but held out in the fortified cities of Birgu and Senglea, and finally drove the Ottoman Turks away also with the help of a relief force (the “Grande Soccorso”) sent by the Christian allies and consisting of about 8.000 men-at-arms and volunteers from all over Europe. The Turks, defeated, fled from the archipelago on September 11, 1565. Malta had survived, Europe and Christianity were safe.
Besides, Malta's new magnificent capital, Valletta, was founded by and named right after the Grand Master de la Valette. Works started in 1566, and Valletta, also known as the "Fortress City" thanks to its imposing bastions and forts, was completed entirely by hand in the astonishingly short time of 15 years. Since then the city has been shining over centuries as a mighty fortress and the cultural home to several outstanding religious and secular Baroque architectures as well as some of the finest artworks of 16th through 18th century Europe.
Fort St Elmo is a star-shaped fort standing on the seaward shore of the rocky Sceberras Peninsula that separates Marsamxett Harbour from the Grand Harbour, and where the capital city Valletta is now located. Due to its strategic location, the fort has played a key role in guarding the approaches to those harbours throughout history, and is best known for having been the scene of the most intense, fierce and heroic, though tragic, fighting during the Great Siege of Malta, AD 1565. The garrison, consisting of about 150 Knights of Saint John and 600 men-at-arms, mostly Spanish, defended the fort tenaciously and resisted the besieging army and the incessant, massive bombardments from the Turkish heavy artillery for about a month, before being overcome on June 23. None of the defending Knights of St John survived, and only a few of the Maltese defenders managed to flee swimming across the Grand Harbour to reach Fort St. Angelo. The capture of St. Elmo cost the Turks about 6,000 men, including half of their Janissaries elite troop, and a considerable waste of time, leading to their final defeat.
Event description and programme
The "In Guardia Parade" reenactment is organized by the Malta Tourism Authority and aimed to portray a military inspection of Fort St Elmo and its garrison. This was an authentic event regularly taking place inside all major fortifications in Malta and Gozo and that was carried on by the Grand Bailiff, who oversaw the military affairs, and therefore was responsible also for the maintenance and efficiency of the Maltese forts and fortresses, checking the assignment of enough knights and soldiers to all garrisons, and their high state of alertness and readiness to fight.
Around 60/70 reenactors, all dressed in their faithfully recreated historical uniforms, restage military drills and a parade from the period to prove their prowess to the Grand Bailiff, and assure him Fort St Elmo to be in good condition to defend the Valletta peninsula and the two harbours on either side of it. The visitors have a great chance to step back in time and breath, both acoustically and visually, the atmosphere of age of the Knights of Saint John through an interesting and accurate living history display of various military manoeuvres and drills in the place-of-arms of Fort St Elmo, a quite unique and pretty evocative heritage site. The captain gathers his men-at-arms and gives out the orders of the day, getting the garrison of the fort ready for the visit of the Grand Bailiff. The salute to the Grand Bailiff at his arrival is followed by military drills performed by the pikemen, the musketeers and the school of arms. The drill ends with the spectacular firing of mortars and cannons by the bombardiers.
Please contact the Organizers for confirmation and further details.
Info & Contact
"In Guardia Parade" dates for 2018 at Fort St Elmo, Valletta
February: 11, 18, 25
March: 4, 11, 18, 25
April: 8, 15, 22, 29
May: 6, 13, 20, 27
October: 7, 14, 21, 28
November: 4, 11, 18, 25
"In Guardia Parade" extra shows scheduled in 2018 at the Grand Master’s Palace, Valletta
June: 3, 10, 17, 24
July: 1, 8
The show starts at 11.00 hrs and lasts about 40/45 minutes.
Event official web pages
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/InGuardiaParade
Malta Tourism Authority
Address: Building SCM 01, Level 3, SmartCity Malta, SCM 1001, Kalkara, Malta
Tel.: +356 22915000 | Fax: +356 22915394
VisitMalta, the official website for Malta, Gozo & Comino
Head Office address: Ex Royal Naval Hospital, Triq Marina, Kalkara KKR1524 Malta
Tel.: +356 22954000 | Fax: +356 21232900
Image: bazylek100 via Flickr/Malta Tourism Authority, all rights reserved.
Text sources: VisitMalta, Malta Tourism Authority, Heritage Malta, Malta.com, Wikitravel, Wikipedia, AirMalta, The Malta Indipendent, Times of Malta, New World Encyclopedia, Maltese Culture Movement, Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Siege of Malta 1565" by Francisco Balbi di Correggio - The Boydell Press.
Valletta and Fort St Elmo on Google Maps:
Promos and video reportages of the event:
Visiting Malta, spectacular aerial views of Fort St Elmo and Valletta, and trailers of the archipelago